I’m in the process of doing my fitness instructor course through Future Fit Training. The course includes e-learning in preparation for exams with modules including the circulatory & respiratory systems, the skeleton, the muscles, introduction to exercise, and the fitness professional. The course will last three days and covers the physical side too, so I will learn how to use gym equipment and how to induct others into a gym and it gives me the license to lead fitness classes. Four weeks after my initial three day course, I’ll have a practical exam.
When I was a sprightly university student, I went to the gym almost daily, trained in Gaelic football twice a week and played matches at weekends. Since returning, my fitness levels have plummeted, and although I do exercise, it’s far less frequently. So, new year, new me… I’m engaging in a five week fitness plan in the run up to the course as I feel it’s important for my own self-confidence and health to “look the part”, so to speak.
I’ll continue updating each week with progress. The final week of December was my pre-week.
I’ve been avoiding writing too much about training plans because for me, they do not work – but now I’m questioning why. Why don’t they work for me? And the answer is probably because I am the queen of excuses. People fall out of their exercise plans for a myriad of reasons so let’s try and build up a resistance so even I can finish one.
- REST INTERVALS – this is one I can fully get behind! I have more rest days than exercise days, that’s for sure. Your body needs time to grow and heal, rest is encouraged – you should not be doing intense exercise every day. And on days you do exercise, ensure sufficient rests are included, for example thirty seconds to two minute rests during circuit training, including a full two minute rest upon one entire circuit.
- PARTNERS – if you tell yourself you’re going for a run in the morning, but then the morning arrives and it’s miserable, it is very easy to say “I’ll go tomorrow”. If you’ve already made those plans with a partner, you are less likely to cancel. A partner also provides you with encouragement, motivation – and some healthy competition. Secondly, it eliminates the need to start talking with strangers in the gym to get them to spot for you – you’ve got your partner already, get to the action!
- TRAINING LOGS – Training logs can be handwritten diary-like entries or there is a plethora of apps available now like Strava or Runkeeper to track your activities. Training logs are excellent for motivating an individual, and on some apps you can arrange for them to keep bugging you until you log in an exercise. A training log can also be used to record effective or ineffective training methods, document illnesses or injury, mood, the training environment (e.g. I did 5 reps then chatted for 20 minutes), and goals…
Speaking of goals, they ought to follow these principles. Anybody involved with goal setting in any shape or form from teachers and fitness instructors to big businesses likely use SMART goal setting – and usually they have a different acronym to follow – however the meaning is pretty much the same.
- Specify your goal, rather than I want to be able to run make it “I want to be able to run 5km”
- Measureable, if you want to get stronger then how will that be measured? Measure number of reps and the weights used
- Achievable – if you have never ran in your life and set yourself the goal of running the London marathon this year then you’re highly unlikely to achieve it – and any progress you make towards the goal will then feel like a waste of time. Instead, a more achievable goal could be to complete a couch potato to 5km running program
- Realistic – this ties in to the above one; let’s face it, I am never going to be in the Olympics and setting myself that goal is ridiculous.
- Time based – Set a time limit and be realistic with it e.g. set yourself the target of six weeks to complete the couch potato to 5km program.
Goals are incredibly important and provide drive and motivation. Their completion increases self-worth, self-efficacy, and goals should progress your fitness too! Further, by following the SMART principles, the fitness plan should be suited to your actual fitness – because a big reason for people dropping out is that they over-estimate their abilities and it becomes too hard.
Never underestimate the power of motivation too – consider why you want to exercise and keep that in your mind each time you want to skip out on a work out.
Ultimately, what I will say is that if you’re hating every minute of it then it’s probably not for you – find something you enjoy, be it swimming, running, zumba, kick boxing, or bowling.
Those immortal lyrics of Olivia Newton-John should hopefully be ringing in your ears. Over the next couple of weeks there will be a series of blogs about (the very basics) of training and original resources will be provided. Feel free to utilise them, share them, laugh at them etc.
I’ve knocked up a simple fitness testing sheet that can be printed out and be used to asses fitness pre/post a training plan. The majority of it doesn’t require too much advanced equipment. It’s better to do the testing across the same day and perform the exercises in the same order upon completion of a fitness plan. This is basic but covers the main areas of fitness.
Also, the pacer/beep test can be found here
There are some key areas of fitness that can be targeted to improve sport performance as seen below. This is your quick and dirty whistle stop tour into what they are and how to improve.
The longer it lasts, the greater the endurance. This can be short, high intensity exercises like sprinting versus ultra-marathons. It can be broken into two distinct areas: cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance, also known as stamina. This can be improved with continuous running, Fartlek running, or interval running (short & fast versus long & slow).
The range of movement in a joint during passive movements. Flexibility can prevent injuries because the muscle is able to move further before an injury occurs (have you ever tried to do the splits and regretted that decision horribly the next day?). It can also improve speed and agility by maximising muscle range. It depends in part upon the sport – gymnasts are far more flexible than rugby players – however individual differences will also play a role; some people just have longer and looser ligaments than others! Static stretching can improve flexibility.
Pretty much what it says on the tin – obviously some people are na
turally quicker than others, we can’t all be Usain Bolt, but speed is an indicator of fitness. The quickest way to improve speed is by improving your body composition and increasing general physical prep e.g. start exercising more. Technique training, acceleration sprints, and reaction drills are good ways of improving speed.
This is the ability to exert a maximum force. Power = speed + strength. This can be broken into absolute, aerobic, anaerobic, limit, and speed categories and each one has different training methods. Obviously, it’s important to recognise again that individual differences will play a role – I’m 5ft2 and will never be able to lift as much as the Mountain from Game of Thrones. Strength exercises include free weights, circuit training, fixed apparatus – and remember never skip leg day.
This focuses on how well you can apply explosive movements to rapid changes of direction – think Sonic the Hedgehog. It requires good balance, speed, co-ordination, and strength, among others. Very important when marking the opposition who will be trying to escape from you e.g. in netball. Agility is developed with short sprints and sharp turns around a set of markers, the Illinois Agility Test is a common one.